DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Finnair (AY) became the first Western airline to begin commercial flights to Moscow Vnukovo (VKO) after World War II in 1956.
Operated by a Convair 440, AY flew the route twice-weekly. In the first years of operation, approximately 2,000 passengers were carried annually.
Like most European airlines, the war years were difficult for AY, then known as Aero O/Y. Raids on various Finnish cities led to the Finnish Air Force relinquishing half of the carrier’s fleet.
At the end of hostilities, the country’s government acquired a majority share in the company. In 1947, the airline was renamed Finnish Air Lines, and passenger numbers soared. Expansion followed, and AY purchased new aircraft, such as the twin-engined, pressurized Convair 440.
Special arrangements had to be made for the Moscow service. Firstly, enough fuel had to be carried for the rerun flight. This proved problematic and eventually, AY would send its own fuel truck to the airport. The Soviet Union offered no diversion airport, and basic navigation skills were required as contact with ATC was problematic in Soviet airspace.
In the flight deck, a Soviet radio operator was required. This also meant that a Russian-speaking Flight Attendant had to be carried to assist. In 1960, AY moved the service from VKO to Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO).
By 1961, AY had introduced its first jet equipment, the Sud Aviation Caravelle, to the route. Cooperation with the Russian flag carrier began in 1964.
Featured image: Finnair became the first western airline granted permission to fly to Moscow after the Second World War. (Photo: SDASM Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)